GAME ONE: NOON Wednesday
COLLINS VS. OWENSBORO
Region: 8th | Record: 26-8 | Enrollment: 978
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Chris Gaither is 96-31 in four years at Collins. He played at Georgetown College and was a member of Grayson County's Sweet Sixteen team in 2001.
No. Player Ht. Yr. Ppg.
1 Brent Kidwell 6-0 Sr. 13.3
24 Jakson Test 6-0 Jr. 9.5
25 Deion Cochran 6-1 Sr. 16.8
10 Grant Clarkson 5-10 Jr. 5.8
33 Mark Sorrells 6-4 Sr. 6.7
Collins is finally in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time after a series of tough-luck ousters in the region tournament over the past few years. The Titans defeated Oldham County for the 8th Region crown, less than two months after Oldham handed Collins a 25-point loss, its worst of the season. "Our kids were very hungry to avenge that loss," Gaither said. Collins won't wow you with size, but its four-guard lineup is quick and features a man-to-man defense that makes opponents work hard for good looks. The senior backcourt duo of Kidwell and Cochran make the offense go. "We're very undersized, but we make up for a lot of that with our quickness — especially getting up and down the floor on the offensive end," Gaither said.
REMINDER OF THE PAST
Gaither wanted to remember what it was like to be a player during the state playoffs, so he started wearing an orange shirt underneath his dress shirt and tie once the postseason began. The color represented the team he helped lead to the 2001 state tournament. "That was kind of a motivation for me every time I put that shirt on," he said.
"Everything happens so fast when you're a player. It's all fun and it's exciting. As a coach, it becomes more emotional, because it's not about you any more. It's about your kids and all the hard work they've put in."
PLAYER TO WATCH
Cochran is Collins' leading scorer (16.8 points per game) and the team's leading rebounder (5.1) despite being listed at just 6-1. He also has the capability to be a tremendous shooter — going 40-percent from three-point range this season while also leading the state in free-throw percentage (88.2 percent). "When Deion is making shots and scoring for us," Gaither said, "we're very hard to beat."
The Titans are in the state tournament for the first time. The school was founded in 2010, and this is its fifth season in existence.
Region: 3rd | Record: 27-4 | Enrollment: 1,140
Rod Drake is 123-79 in seven years as coach. He was a standout on Owensboro's 1980 state title team and played college hoops at Kentucky Wesleyan.
No. Player Ht. Yr. Ppg.
32 Aric Holman 6-9 Sr. 15.8
55 Justin Miller 6-7 Sr. 16.6
15 Darion Morrow 5-9 Sr. 13.7
21 Dylan Sanford 6-1 Sr. 9.0
20 Jacoby Harris 5-10 So. 7.7
The Red Devils got a wake-up call early in the postseason with a loss to Apollo in the district finals. "I think they started looking just a little bit ahead," Drake said. "After we got beat, I could tell the practices were different." The Devils regrouped and rolled to a second consecutive region title. Drake says this team is defined by its unselfishness, best illustrated by the backcourt of Sanford, Morrow and Harris, who help feed leading scorers Holman and Miller in the post. "Those guys are the most unselfish ball players that anyone could ask to play with." This team can shoot from outside and its 71.5 points per game is a product of an up-tempo approach. "With our style of play, I never think that we're out of a ball game," Drake said.
A SECOND CHANCE
The Owensboro team that came to Rupp last season featured an all-junior starting five that didn't quite understand what it was in for. Tournament favorite Louisville Trinity bounced the Devils in the first round. This time around, Drake expects his players to be better prepared mentally. "You just can't explain to those guys the 'ooh' and the 'aah' about it," he said. "As a coach, you want to instill that in them, but it comes from experience. You have to be there to understand it."
PLAYER TO WATCH
Holman will be looking to make a better impression on his return trip to Lexington after going 0-for-7 from the field with no points before fouling out in last season's loss to Trinity. He's averaging 15.8 points and 9.7 rebounds this season, and Drake says he's been more assertive in all aspects of the game. Scout.com ranks him as a four-star recruit, and Louisville is among the schools interested. He'll spend next season at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. "This boy — he's going to be a phenom if he keeps doing what he's doing," Drake said.
The Red Devils are in the state tournament for a record 43rd time. They've won three titles (1949, 1972, 1980).